Itchy scalp and hair loss

An itchy scalp can worsen ongoing hair loss, but it’s neither a cause in itself nor directly related

The most common form of baldness is inherited pattern hair loss

95 percent of baldness in men older than 40 happens because of genetic factors. This is called male pattern hair loss and the clinical term is androgenic alopecia.  It’s an inherited condition where too much testosterone in the body is transformed into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). For the most part, this transformation happens in hair follicles and the prostate gland. Excessive DHT production damages and reduces the size of hair follicles. The damaged follicles then don’t regrow new hair after old hair has been lost.

 

Pattern hair loss starts at the hairline at the frontal vertex and causes the hairline to gradually recede back across the vertex in a V shape. That means hair loss is first observed at the temples, leaving the middle part of your hair protrude like a V. This is a slow, multi-year process without pain or itching or any other accompanying symptoms. So, an itchy scalp doesn’t offer any indication that you may be experiencing pattern hair loss. In fact, many men only notice pattern hair loss once it’s advanced enough for the V shape to start appearing.  

 

Around 50 percent of men at one point will start balding because of androgenic alopecia. It’s even 80 percent for Caucasians. Female pattern hair loss also exists, but it’s less pronounced (women rarely bald completely) and starts at a much later age.

 

Besides pattern hair loss, some rarer forms of baldness include autoimmune disorders or hair loss caused by a bad diet, prolonged sickness or certain chemicals and drugs. 

 

If you are interested in learning more about pattern hair loss and other hair loss types, talk to a dermatologist or your usual healthcare professional.

 

An itchy scalp can worsen pattern hair loss

An itchy scalp only endangers your hair if you already suffer from androgenic alopecia and the itchiness causes you an irresistible urge to frequently scratch your scalp. This scratching is harmful to the already injured hair follicles at your hairline (remember, it’s here where the DHT process does the most damage) and thus will trigger greater hair loss.

 

However, there is no reason for why you should have to endure an itchy scalp for long. The most common causes of scalp itchiness are easily treatable. 

 

Temporary factors causing an itchy dry scalp — sometimes also including a burning sensation — are dry weather, heat, pollution, too much sunlight exposure, poor hair hygiene or skin-irritating hair care products. But such short-term itchiness shouldn’t last longer than a few weeks, in particular once you have identified the root cause of the irritation, like a bad shampoo. 

 

If the itchiness persists for longer than a month, you should seek medical advice, as the underlying condition could be more serious. The usual suspects are fungal infections and seborrheic dermatitis. But even these conditions can be treated fairly effectively with medicated shampoos, topical creams, and antibacterial skin washes. 

 

References

  1. Bin Saif, Ghada A., et al. “The Itchy Scalp - Scratching for an Explanation.” Experimental Dermatology, vol. 20, no. 12, 17 Nov. 2011, pp. 959–968, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3233984/, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0625.2011.01389.x. Accessed 4 Dec. 2019.
  2. Vázquez-Herrera, Norma Elizabeth, et al. “Scalp Itch: A Systematic Review.” Skin Appendage Disorders, vol. 4, no. 3, 29 Nov. 2017, pp. 187–199, www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/484354, https://doi.org/10.1159/000484354. Accessed 4 Dec. 2019.

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